I was born in Pakistan to Christian parents, but my parents moved back to the UK when I was four, and brought my brother and I up to share their values. I’ve often viewed my upbringing as fairly sheltered – I never went through a rebellious stage or went through serious doubts, and sometimes I’m questioned by others about how genuine my faith is. Many people see my faith as simply a consequence of my family lifestyle, but it is so much more than that. I am so grateful that I was surrounded by a family that sought to be more like Jesus with every passing day. I can’t recall a point in my life where I wouldn’t have called myself a Christian, but it was at age 8 that I nailed my colours to the mast and prayed a simple prayer asking God to forgive me for everything I’d done wrong and to give my life over to him. A few years down the line, I made a public declaration of the promise I’d made all those years earlier, and was baptised in my church.
Although I can remember the exact days on which I “became a Christian” and was baptised, my journey with God was not a simple “before-and-after”. Many people imagine that God should be like a magician, granting our wishes if we behave well and changing us from “bad” people to “good” people the moment we choose Him. But this is not true. Change takes time, and I’ve found that God has been taking me on a journey throughout my entire life. He’s not interested in a quick fix before He moves on to fix the next person, He is a personal God who wants a deep relationship with you, and some lessons take years and years for us to learn.
When I was a teenager I moved from the church my parents attended to Purley Baptist Church, where there were more people my age, and it was there that I began to make my faith my own. As I grew up and started making my own choices about my life and my future, I investigated the Christian faith much more thoroughly and found that it was the only way to answer all of life’s questions. Christianity became a core part of my identity as I discovered more about God and all that He had done by sending his Son Jesus to take upon himself the punishment that I deserved for all the things I’d done wrong. It was in my teenage years that I encountered a Christianity that was not a religion, all about rules and rituals, but a Christianity that was about a real relationship with a God who loves me unconditionally.
Over the past few years, I’ve come to rely more and more on God, and He is slowly teaching me that I am not defined by anything that I do or have done, not by my grades at school or at University, not by how many friends I have and not by what other people think of me. Instead, I am defined as a child of the guy who made the whole Earth and everything in it – a truth that still overwhelms me sometimes! And, as God says in one of my favourite verses in the Bible: "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness" (2 Corinthians 12 v 9).
Yes, I have my questions, and yes, I still make tons and tons of mistakes, but each time God picks me up, dusts me off and sends me on my way again. I know God is real because the evidence lines up, and I have seen Him move so powerfully in my life and in the lives of my friends, answering prayers and healing them physically and emotionally. God has changed my life, slowly but surely, and it is only in Him that I find true hope!